Tuesday, July 19, 2016

U.S. House passes bill that prevents a Malheur County national monument

An Interior Department funding bill passed by the U.S. House of Representatives includes a provision that blocks a proposed national monument in Malheur County, Ore., that is strongly opposed by local ranchers and farmers. The bill passed 231-196 July 14 and is headed to the Senate.
It includes a proposal by Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., that prevents funds from being used to create a national monument in Malheur County. Oregon Natural Desert Association, a Bend, Ore.-based environmental group, has proposed creating a national monument on 2.5 million acres in an area of the county known as the Owyhee Canyonlands. It would cover 40 percent of the county and encompass about 33 percent of the county’s total grazing land. County residents voted 9-1 against the idea during a special election in March. Walden said in a news release that the House vote sends “a strong message to the president that the overwhelming majority of local residents and the People’s House oppose a monument.” The vote was applauded by Jordan Valley rancher Mark Mackenzie, vice president of the Owyhee Basin Stewardship Coalition, which was formed this year to represent ranchers, farmers and others who oppose a national monument designation. Regardless of what happens to the bill in the Senate, “it’s sending a loud message ... that, hey, we’re not happy with this proposal,” Mackenzie said. He said if a monument is created, a completely new set of rules would have to be drawn up for it and that unknown is concerning to ranchers. “It’s very, very upsetting for the industry because we don’t know what we’re going to get,” he said. Malheur County is Oregon’s No. 1 cattle producing county with about $134 million in farm-gate receipts annually...more

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